P Money

P Money: In opposition

The grime figurehead speaks out ahead of his upcoming album for Rinse.

Coming to prominence during grime’s heyday, P Money has become one of the scene’s most recognisable personalities through a combination of finely-honed lyrical content and delivery, a relentless touring and release schedule, and a keen interest in grime’s continuing progression.

Starting on his path at the age of 16 as part of grime crew Fatal Assassins, alongside long-time affiliates Little Dee and Blacks, the south London MC made a name for himself spraying countless pirate radio sessions with his trademark machine gun flows.

Whilst many other artists rapidly climbed the industry ladder – leaving the more abrasive musical tropes of grime behind in favour of something more commercially friendly – P stoked the fires of a waning grime scene, incorporating the then prominent dubstep sound into his own.

Whilst he now regularly headlines clubs and plays main stages across the country, P’s ears are still very much pointed to the underground. In the years since grime’s increase in popularity he’s been instrumental in highlighting the talents of up and comers like Capo Lee, Jammz and YGG – appearing on a number of tracks and mixtapes.

In the run-up to our chat, P had been filming visuals for his upcoming album Live & Direct. Due in November, with features from Wiley, Stormzy, JME, and various members of his OGz crew,(although he adds, it’s not essential for a solo album to have lots of features), P believes the album is the apex of his career – the summation of more than a decade’s hard graft.

We caught up with him to talk his disdain for UK policing, the many crises facing London’s nightlife, and the grime scene’s coming of age.

Your recent track ‘Stereotype’ makes no secret of your feelings towards the police in the UK, was it something that happened recently that inspired it? 

I’ve been thinking about it for a number of years, it always happens, seeing people get pulled over, or myself getting pulled over for no other reason than driving a car, being a young black male. It’s not right.

Only the other week, me , 67 and Elijah & Skilliam, got pulled off the bill for Leeds Mint Festival. They haven’t given any reason at all for this. My agent’s contacted them asking why. I played there less than a month ago, there were no problems, I’ve got no record, nothing.

It happened without a 696 form, the police have the power to just do something like that. They went to the organisers and said, “if you don’t pull these people, we’ll pull your festival”. This was a targeted thing, it was just to do with ‘that’ type of music. I’ve been playing Leeds for six years in a row, and nothing’s ever happened, so what are your reasons?

Until we speak out or record it on our phones, people won’t know. People think artists just live a normal, perfect life. They don’t know what people are really going through.

What do you feel needs to change in regards to policing in this country?

They need to do whatever they do much better, they don’t investigate anything, they just hear something and judge based on that. They don’t bother to find out what’s really happening. Someone says, “oh, grime attracts a bad crowd”. They [the police] will just take all the acts off of that lineup without going to a night and seeing what it’s like.

I think whatever they’re told, they just go with it. They don’t actually know anything about our genre or what happens. I could understand if it was artists that had just come out of jail, or were on bail for certain things, but when that artist has no record, no hype, no trouble or grief between them, it doesn’t make sense. They’re putting us all in one box.

What do you think about the recent events with fabric, and the way the police have conducted themselves around the closure?

It’s the same thing, they’re trying to use the reason that six people have died [at fabric] over the past 16 years. If those are your reasons then you should be shutting down every place that has those kind of statistics – including police stations – because people die in police custody, how come nobody’s speaking about that?

It’s a sad thing when someone passes away at a nightclub, but I feel like there was a hidden agenda there. I’m sure things will come out saying there’s more to it, like a reason to do with money, or they can make money out of the closure.

They don’t understand how damaging it is to the UK music scene – it’s a tourist attraction. I put on a night there not long ago and had people flying in from all over the world. Every country I go to people speak about going to London to party and the first place they mention is fabric, it’s a very big venue to a lot of people.

How do you feel this will affect London’s culture? Especially the grime scene?

There will be no culture. They’re knocking down whole estates, whole communities, and building homes that are too expensive for people to afford, everybody will be pushed out of London.

London has such a vibe of people wanting to come here because of the culture – you get to see so much. So many people from different backgrounds live here, but they’re being forced out by closing venues, closing youth clubs, closing shops, raising the price of housing, knocking down estates. They’re driving culture out.

There are loads of venues in London, but playing fabric, that’s the big stage. There are venues that are bigger, but they don’t always do grime nights, whereas fabric can put on grime nights, dubstep nights, drum and bass nights. Every time there’s something at fabric it’s a big event for us, but they’ve just taken that away, it’s actually a massive loss.

Skepta’s just won the Mercury Prize, he’s someone that’s been there since day one, and most importantly he’s done it independently. What do you think this means for the grime scene, especially artists who are mostly self-managed like yourself?

It felt good. Dizzee won it before, but I didn’t really know about the Mercurys or what they meant when it happened. But now I realise it’s a big thing. I think people thought it wasn’t possible anymore, because it’s been such a long time since anyone like that has won. It’s been 10 years or something, it shows the progression. We’re winning awards, and it’s not just the Mercury Prize we’re winning.

Of all the albums released this year, Skepta’s has won. It’s a massive thing for him, but it does help people doing a similar thing, whether it’s grime or UK rap, everyone’s paying attention now, everyone’s looking. If he can win a Mercury, then why can’t we?

It makes you feel like you can do it yourself. In his speech he said it was a great time not just for musicians, but for anyone, all creative minds. You now can get out there with an idea and make something of yourself – we’re in that day and age.

You’re still more than happy to help up and coming artists out, with Shell TV, or with collaborations. Why do you think it’s important?

It’s the only way this thing is going to live on. I think about how hard it was for me to come through, because there was nobody there to tell me what to do, and how to do things. I had to do it for myself and learn from my PR back then – looking at what she was doing, getting me into places. If I hadn’t got that knowledge, I don’t even know if I’d be who I am today, because I wouldn’t know how to get anything. Like PRS, I wouldn’t know how to sign up for it.

I could be that guy who’s all about myself and let other people go through the struggle, or, just share what I know – take half an hour to sit down with them. And it’s cool – they can carry on and they respect you for it. I don’t need any praise, I don’t need any money, but at least I know that I helped my scene continue.

What do you think of artists like Novelist becoming more blatantly political in their work? Do you agree with the notion that grime shouldn’t be a genre in which politics are discussed?

I think that [the notion] is stupid, because you use music to talk about what you want. There are some people who say you shouldn’t use music to talk about your girl… there’s no limitation to what people should say in music, music is music.

I think it’s good that people like Novelist are doing that, they’re showing that they’re not dumb, they’re in tune with what’s going on. And because all the people his age and younger are into him, he’s also educating them, or being a voice for them.

I think that’s important, ‘cos even if you are an MP or president, if you listen to these people, you will hear what’s going on. If they were to sit down with people like Novelist, and listen to what’s going on with us, they could actually help. And through speaking, we can help them. Unfortunately, they don’t. They just think, “oh it’s just a kid, whatever.” But it’s not just that – we’re saying things, and I think it’s good that people like Novelist are taking that approach.

As someone who grew up with grime on pirate radio, what’s your opinion on the legitimate online stations becoming prominent. How do you think these stations have affected grime?

Not everyone can get on Rinse, but you’ve got things like Radar, NTS… other stations give us more options, and it allows everyone to be heard. I think it’s a good thing, because when it was only Rinse that was playing grime, not everybody could be heard, some people got frustrated, some of them just dropped out. There are more options these days, and that’s why I think there’s a lot more MCs as well.

How does doing a session on Radar differ from the pirate radio days?

It’s all the same apart from the environment. If I was doing a set on Radio 1, for instance, it would be the same. It’s just what’s in there that’s different. Back in the day, a pirate radio set could have been in a building site container or something, but now it’s in an office studio space with proper mics and headphones. I treat it the same. It’s still just radio.

‘Stereotype’ is pretty hard hitting lyrically, in comparison to a lot of the other stuff that’s coming out the scene at the moment. Can we expect a similar level of topical lyricism on the rest of the album?

There’s a mixture of lyricism, there’s stuff where I’m talking about my family, but the beat is still hard hitting. Even when I did the tune about police, I approached it the same way I’d approach a tune on a Swiftah beat with a hype grime flow. But it’s what I’m talking about, on the album you’ll hear a lot of that, there are a few tracks on there that are your typical grime – they’re catchy, it’s a vibe – but then at the same time I’m actually saying something that means you can listen to the album again. But I’ve stuck to my style, so anyone that’s listened to me for all these years will get it.

P Money’s Live & Direct album is out November 25 on Rinse, pre-order it here.

Words: Richard Lowe

Featured image: Ashley Verse

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